Jane Goodall, whose pioneering observations of chimpanzees in the wild changed scientific thinking about the differences between humans and apes, found a broader mission in conservation and education.
Silvey surveys the life of “the most recognized living scientist in the Western world” in five chapters that dutifully cover high points but do little to convey Goodall’s “wild life” of the subtitle. Moving from Goodall’s early interest in animals to her subject’s first years in Africa, the author gives examples of the difficulties Goodall faced in Gombe. “Celebrity Scientist” describes some of Goodall’s other early activities and lists her most important observations about chimpanzee behavior. “Transformation” shows her career’s new direction after 1986 and identifies three organizations she’s founded: the Jane Goodall Institute, Roots and Shoots, and TACARE. In “Legacy,” the author describes how our views of chimpanzees and methods of observation have changed. The book’s lavish design does little to punch up the text. Numerous sidebars (some occupying a full page) interrupt the admiring narrative, which is not entirely chronological, and the many photographs don’t always relate to nearby text. The appended, vinelike timeline is hard to follow. The text is frequently set on faint silhouettes of Gombe plants (a key appears opposite the author’s introduction); the occasional use of a small, white type on an orange background also decreases legibility. Goodall provides a foreword; extensive backmatter includes maps, sources, and an index.
A serviceable biography. (Nonfiction. 10-14)